IBM T221 Flat-Panel Monitor

31 Mar, 2004 By: Ron LaFon

Extreme resolution.

There are times when technology simply amazes me, and reviewing the IBM T221 flat-panel monitor was one of those times. Capable of resolutions as high as 3840X2400 in 24-bit color on a 22.2" diagonal screen, the T221 boasts some 9.2 million pixels. While typical monitors have 96ppi (pixels per inch), the T221 packs in a whopping 204ppi. Not only is the resolution breathtaking, the degree of detail is remarkable. You literally have to use a magnifying glass to see the pixels.

The T221 flat-panel monitor from IBM offers an incredible 3840X2400 24-bit color display.
The T221 flat-panel monitor from IBM offers an incredible 3840X2400 24-bit color display.

The IntelliStation M Pro workstation I used to test the IBM T221 monitor was equipped with an NVIDIA FX 3000 graphics card. Both of the T221's DVI-D digital connectors are needed to drive this impressive display. Each one delivers half of the screen display, so the monitor requires a graphics card equipped with dual digital connectors to get the best resolution possible. IBM suggests using an NVIDIA Quadro4 980 XGL or Quadro FX 1000, 1100, 2000, or 3000 card.

Based on TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD technology with a polarizing nonglare coating, the T221 displays a fairly wide 16:10 aspect ratio so that it can display two full-size A4 or US Standard 8.5" X 11" vertical pages side by side. The resulting image is crisp and has a 400:1 contrast range, with a 170° viewing angle horizontally and vertically.

IBM provided a demo that showcases some of the applications for which the T221 is well suited. Besides CAD drawings and renderings, these include astronomical images, digital photography, medical images, and electronic publishing documents. The IntelliStation M Pro came with Windows XP Pro, standard NVIDIA drivers, and CATIA 5 installed to test the display. As you might imagine, it's amazing to work with a highly detailed shaded model on the T221.

The IBM T221 flat-panel monitor comes in two versions: the DG3 operates at 20Hz using both connectors or 13Hz using a single connector, and the DG5 runs at a faster frame rate of 48Hz using both connectors or 24Hz using a single connector. The IBM T221 DG5 carries a hefty price of $8,399; the DG3 is slightly less expensive at $7,499. These aren't ordinary desktop or workstation monitors, as reflected by the price and the remarkable displays they produce.

It's inevitable, I suppose, that with 9.2 million pixels, some dead ones would be evident. I counted several, but only under close scrutiny.

On March 16, IBM announced HRSD (high-resolution scalable desktop), which lets you magnify the user interface so you aren't stuck with miniscule control menus and dialog boxes.

Aside from the pricing, which effectively takes the T221 out of the desktop monitor category, the extreme resolution and detail also produce their own difficulties in terms of daily use. Significant mouse motion is required to navigate across a display with this resolution, and it's occasionally difficulty to locate the cursor.

Would I want a T221 monitor? Yes, of course, but not as a primary monitor. I doubt that I'd ever use even a significant percentage of this instrument's capabilities, though there would be times when it's just the right display to have. For those with less-mundane requirements who need a display with the resolution and detail the T221 can produce, the T221 delivers.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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